Justifying its decision to officially join China's One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project despite opposition from India, Nepal has said that it cannot ignore China as the latter is not just an economic powerhouse but also its neighbour.
Talking to TOI, Nepal's ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyaya said India reservations to OBOR were mostly about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and that Nepal had nothing to do with that.
"Nepal will never give India grief but it cannot remain indifferent to a big economic power like China as it seeks more foreign investment and development,'' said Upadhyaya.
In a jolt to India, which looks at OBOR with suspicion, Nepal has decided to formally become a part of China's mammoth connectivity and infrastructure initiative spanning Asia, Europe and Africa. While India has decided to skip China's showpiece OBOR conference starting Sunday, Nepal has sent a high-level delegation to China led by its deputy PM and finance minister K Bahadur Mahara.
"It's is important to look at the overall situation. We are aware of India's reservations about CPEC but Nepal is not taking any position on the issue by joining OBOR,'' said Upadhyaya.
"We would like the 2 countries to resolve their differences amicably. And on any security related issue between China and India, Nepal's position is neutral. However, for Nepal to benefit economically, it is important that we have better ties with our neighbour to the north too,'' added the ambassador. He pointed to how other Indian neighbours like Sri Lanka too have endorsed OBOR. Nepal is looking to garner more investment for road and railway connectivity through its participation in OBOR.
Nepal is a country that do not have any base. They keep changing and shifting their stand as per their requirements and relief they get. Any day China can keep them in their pocket.
While India's main concern about OBOR is the fact that the CPEC, which is a part of the same, passes through Pakistan controlled Gilgit-Baltistan region which India claims as its own, its opposition to OBOR is not limited to that. Beijing's rapid naval expansion in Indian Ocean and the manner in which it has sought to engage with India's neighbours like Sri Lanka and the Maldives , overwhelming them with loans to build strategic assets like ports, has only further unnerved India. Sri Lanka's current debt crisis originated from the loans which t6he country acquired from China at a high rate of interest under former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. According to some estimates, Maldives now owes almost 70 per cent of its external debt to China.
According to reports from Beijing, 65 countries are participating in the conference, out of which 20 are being represented by heads of state and government. Some Indian academics are likely to be present at the conference but only in their private capacity. The government did not respond to queries Saturday if some junior-level officials from the Indian embassy in Beijing might participate.